I knew the pain my loveless marriage was bringing her. My Aunt Ruthanne was my biggest confidante and best friend. She encouraged me to make the move to Boise from Boston after receiving a job offer from the ABC Affiliate out west. She knew I needed to get away from a toxic relationship and find myself again. She was so right in her encouragement. It rescued me. Five months after that Boise move, just before her death, we were having lunch in Tucson, Arizona and she told me to never settle. She reminded me I was strong- and to always be strong.
Two weeks later I was in Tucson again, this time holding her hand in the hospital room. Alone with Ruthanne, I sobbed and I put my face to her hand. I promised her I would go through with the divorce and that I would stay strong. She passed away the next day.
Two months after saying goodbye to my beloved aunt, I wrote this for myself in my private journal:
I just picked myself up off the floor and told myself to go and write. Or someone did.
Here I am. At my computer in a tiny sunlight corner of my apartment- my haven in Boise, Idaho. A place I call home and have for the past 8 months.
I told Sharon at the Christmas party that Ruthanne visited me in my dream. She told me that for angels that meant something. That it was an early visit. I trust Sharon when it comes to angels.
When Ruthanne visited, so clear and vivid in my dream, I said: “Are you here to tell me you’re okay?” She looked vibrant. She was done up in her fabulous clothing and makeup, looking ready for one of her formal dinners with important people, and she smiled her beautiful smile. She told me: “Yes, I am here to tell you I am okay.” I asked if she was with me, and if she knew everything going on. She told me she did, and that she was with me, and has been with me. She told me she was watching me. I asked her what I needed to know. She told me to let things go. She told me that the tension in my life was building, because of things I wouldn’t let go of. I asked her: “What else?” She told me not to spend time with people that put me down, because I was worth more, and that I am a remarkable woman.
Then I woke up.
That dream is sustaining me. It’s been an eye-opening year. And it’s coming to a close-rapidly. I read a saying somewhere, something like: There is pain that just hurts, and then there is pain that molds you into a stronger person; changing your direction for the better. I was feeling tough months ago; hanging on that cliché quote, feeling like that’s what the pain of this year would mean. But Ruthanne- the person who was helping me through it-why did she have to go? Why did she die? Two weeks after I visited her in October. My best friend. The person who said I would always have her and that she’d always be there for me. Why did that happen? This pain doesn’t feel like growth. It feels cruel.
Ruthanne was every person someone dreamt of having in their life. She was my best friend. She was a mother figure. A sister. A supporter and cheerleader. She was calm, soft and collected; then strong and bold with opinions. She watched me make my own decisions and go through life with her bright smile, encouraging me, but never telling me what to do (until I asked, then watch out). She loved me deeply. I know that. I really know she did. I loved her deeply.
Today, I can’t call her. I can’t fly to her. I can’t text her. I can’t hear her say that I’m going to be just fine, or give me some tough love, and say: “Well, what did you expect Lauren?”
I can read her old texts and imagine what she would say. It would likely be along the lines of some tough love, and then compassion- an offer to fly me down to Tucson for some R and R and future life planning. Or I can remember the dream- how vivid it was, and think that she is right here with me. Right now.
I remembered the dream, and it got me up. Go write, Lauren.
Her words: “You’ll always have me” have changed. I read those words every day. They were in her last email to me and it’s stuck to my fridge. I’m trying to process it. I will always have her by my side as my angel. But her voice, I really miss her voice.
I spoke at her memorial. Three weeks after her death. I wrote then- my talk- and it felt good. A couple months later, I’m still crying, still grieving, but I want you to know, and Ruthanne too, that I am grateful. I am so grateful I had Aunt Ruthanne in my life. I’m going to go shower now. She would tell me to. I am going to clean my apartment- my safe haven that she wanted to decorate. She made me ‘facetime’ with her, as I put my thrift furniture together, and watched it all come together. She loved my couch. I am going to get done up on my days off, today and tomorrow, and be grateful; SO grateful that I had an Aunt Ruthanne, and still have an Aunt Ruthanne. So grateful that she visited me- early for an angel- to make me understand she is really here. She is by my side. She’s giving me some tough love: What did you expect, Lauren? Really. Get up. Get going. You are strong. I am here. You know that. So go shed a few more tears in the shower, then go get to work, and maybe go get a manicure. I am here.
Thank you, Ruthanne. I love you. I miss you.
…I did it. I filed for divorce that January. And using a recent interview and footage with Ruthanne that I shot on my cell phone, I put together a tribute for her below.
This was my first documentary. I’m headed to Stanford next month to learn more about film and storytelling. I’m going to make my angel Ruthanne so proud. And I am keeping my promise to her to always be strong, just like her.
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